Habit 5

Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

THE SEVEN HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE

The Art of Listening

Most people don't listen to understand, they listen to reply. Instead of trying to understand what the person is saying, they are preparing what they are going to say. In addition, most people filter what they hear through their own life experiences, deciding what the other person means before the person even stops talking. Steven Covey suggests the practice of empathic listening. This is a skill where the listener attempts to fully understand the other other person by trying to get inside that person's frame of reference. It is the practice of fully, deeply understanding that person, emotionally as well as interllectually.
Stephen Covey: Indian Talking Stick

The Four Phases of Empathetic Listening

Acquiring the skills to be a good empathetic listener involves four stages:


  1. Mimic Content - This is the least effective stage of listening. It is easy, you listen to the words that come out of somone's mouth and repeat them. While it's not terribly effective, at least it causes you to llisten carefully.
  2. Rephrase the Content - This stage causes the listener to think about what is said and repeat in their own words.
  3. Reflect Feeling - Now you are not only paying attention to what that person is saying, but you are also listening (and watching) to understand how they feel about what they are saying.
  4. Rephrase the Content and Reflect Feeling - This is the top level of listenting, where you can think about the meaning of the words a person says and understand how they are feeling.


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Source: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Steven Covey, 1989)